What I'm Reading: June 2019

I'm not one of those readers who underlines, highlights, makes marginal notations, or otherwise defaces a book. This goes back even before I was buying used books in college and resenting the over-highlighters before me who thought everything in a paragraph was important.

While I'm willing to turn down the corner of a page to mark my place if I don't have a bookmark handy (which is why I finally bought a little tin of book darts, those handy metal pointers that slide onto the edge of a page), I don't want to destroy the book's raw contents for someone else in the future who will bring a different perspective and find different things important if I don't get in the way. I know some people find those fingerprints of past readers interesting. I get that, I just don't do that.

In grad school I used Post-it notes on the edges of pages, with a brief keyword and the page number in case the stick-um came loose. That gave me a fast way to find something interesting or to go back to all the points that related to a paper I was working on, but at the same time made it harder to stack books with all those flaps hanging off the sides.

Quotations in a journal with highlighter: "...to persuade an adversary, talk to them in their language and tell them the story they want to hear." - Nicola Griffith, So Lucky. "Learn what you can, then improvise." - Nicola Griffith, So Lucky.Enter my Kindle and the ability to highlight something, then go to the list of highlighted items any time you like. I combine this with the practice of writing the real keepers in my bullet journal on pages I set aside for quotations, with color blocks to make each quotation its own bright spot on the page. Some books inspire a lot of quote-capturing, others none -- not because they're bad books, just because the kinds of things I like to capture are the ones that can live independent of the book's context and that speak to me for some reason.

This month gave me a lot of quotations.

And now for the June list, with thanks to these fine authors for their talents--
      • How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, by Jenny Odell (@the_jennitaur): Heard her interviewed on the podcast Call Your Girlfriend. The content sounded somewhat similar to Digital Minimalism, which I read in March, but with a different take on why we should reclaim our attention span. Turned out to be even deeper than I had anticipated. If you wonder why and how we got stuck in a rat race that monetizes the space in our brains and how you might step aside and think more deeply about how we save ourselves and the world around us, this is the book for you. Just a few of Odell's insights that will stay with me:
        • Realities are, after all, inhabitable. If we can render a new reality together--with attention--perhaps we can meet each other there.
        • It is with acts of attention that we decide who to hear, who to see, and who in our world has agency. In this way, attention forms the ground not just for love, but for ethics.
        • Context is what appears when you hold your attention open for long enough; the longer you hold it, the more context appears.
        • Given that all of the issues that face us demand an understanding of complexity, interrelationship, and nuance, the ability to seek and understand context is nothing less than a collective survival skill.
      • V is for Vulnerable: Life Outside the Comfort Zone, by Seth Godin (@ThisIsSethsBlog): One of those books I bought a while ago that has been lurking under the coffee table. I first read Godin's ideas years ago when he was an early social media expert. A couple of quotes from Godin:
        • A knife works best when it has an edge. To take the edge off, to back off, to play it safe, to smooth it out, to please the uninterested masses--it's not what the knife is for.
        • No feels safe, while yes is dangerous indeed. Yes to possibility and yes to risk and yes to looking someone in the eye and telling her the truth.
      • An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ort (@RDunbarO). Like Warmth of Other Suns, a book I've been meaning to get that came up in a Twitter thread (see below in TBR). Not what I was taught in grade school as a white girl growing up in rural Idaho on the lands of the Nez Perce, then suburban eastern Washington on the lands of the Spokan(e), and an essential corrective to the epic and triumphalist mythologizing of settler colonialism.
      • So Lucky, Nicola Griffith (@NicolaZ): Achingly brilliant. I've loved every one of her other books. Read this essay by Dr. Griffith in the New York Times on implicit ableist bias in literature. Reading this so soon after reading Women Rowing North reinforces my plan to move into a one-level house with universal design located in a neighborhood with essential services nearby, transit service, complete sidewalks, and good bike infrastructure. I can't count on remaining able to get around with active transportation, but I can sure as hell not condemn myself to being trapped in a car-dependent place long after I can't drive. Our current neighborhood has transit service but the house has stairs. A couple of the quotations I captured:
        • ...to persuade an adversary, talk to them in their language and tell them the story they want to hear.
        • Learn what you can, then improvise.
      • Here and Now and Then, by Mike Chen (@MikeChenWriter): Found this as a deal thanks to following SF Signal on Twitter. Description got me: A time-travel paradox in which a man has to choose between two families in different timelines. If you're into SF you know the "grandfather paradox" (can't travel back in time and kill your own grandpa or you won't be born to travel back in time to kill your own grandpa). This work deals with that and carries a message that I live by, which is that we can only go forward from where we are, as who we are -- we can't go back (even with time travel). 
      • Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing As We Age, by Mary Pipher: This author and I are apparently living the same timeline. Her work Reviving Ophelia informed me as a mother of daughters. I bought a copy of  Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Our Elders for every one of my siblings as our mother slipped into vascular dementia and our dad aged alongside her. And now this. Not that I'm aging, exactly -- just adding years of lived experience. Just some of the quotations I captured, all by Mary Pipher unless otherwise noted; Pipher herself writes quotable lines and introduced each chapter with quotations from other women.
        • When we act for the good, we move into our own power and into more authentic and connected lives.
        • Almost everything that happens in the universe is not about us.
        • I think that somehow we learn who we truly are and then live with that decision. - Eleanor Roosevelt
        • The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been. - Madeleine L'Engle
        • Old age is not an illness. It is a timeless ascent. As power diminishes, we grow toward more light. - May Sarton
        • Bliss doesn't happen because we are perfect or problem-free but rather because over the years we have become wise enough to occasionally be present for the moment.
      • True Evil, by Greg Iles (@GregIles): I read his Penn Cage novels a while back and enjoyed them so I grabbed this when it popped up in Kindle Unlimited. Also set in Natchez, Mississippi, but with a different central character although Penn makes a brief appearance. FBI agent investigating a murder-for-hire conspiracy with a super-creepy scientist conducting human experimentation as a bonus.
      This month's additions to TBR, with notes on how I found the book. Found a few more physical books stashed in various spots around the house, which is a good problem.
      For a list of what's already waiting patiently on my Kindle, check out What I'm Reading Eventually, which was as of the end of February, and each month's post with what I added that month. I'll post another "eventually" list in a while to keep track as I read and add new books.

      The importance of online reviews for the author: The numbers matter as much as the content of your review so don't stress out over your writing ability -- just praise what you like about theirs.

      A note on local economies and these links: You should shop at a local, independently owned bookstore. Or check these out through your local library -- did you know they can do that with e-books too, if that's how you read? Links on this page are Amazon Affiliate links unless otherwise noted. I've never made a penny from Amazon but these links give you access to more information and reader reviews. If I ever do make anything I'll donate it to a local nonprofit that helps people who need it most.

      Writers on Twitter: I have a Writers list on Twitter. It isn't everyone I read/enjoy but it's a good starting place if you find your tastes and mine overlap. I so appreciate the chances I get to interact with people directly to tell them I enjoy their work.

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